Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Restores $2 Million for Bike/Ped to State Budget
How many people can say that they turned $3,000 into $2 million? Kevin Hardman and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin can.
The Bicycle Federation used a $3,000 Advocacy Advance Rapid Respond grant to support its campaign to restore dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funds cut from the state budget. They were successful. Instead of zeroing out the bicycle and pedestrian line in the budget, the state will spend $2 million over the next two years on bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Since 2009, the state of Wisconsin, the third-ranked Bicycle Friendly State in 2011, has dedicated $2.5 million each year to support their Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program (BPFP). The BPFP matches and bolsters federal Transportation Enhancement funds to build bicycle and pedestrian projects. In 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation identified 56 projects in 30 counties to be constructed with the funds.
Then came the bad news. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker released a draft 2011-2013 budget that had zeroed out the BPFP line item. This would have impacted approximately half of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and planning projects, pushing many crucial projects into the next funding cycle in 2013, cancelling many projects and reducing available funding. “Now we’ve got to convince the mainstream of Wisconsin that bicycling is an integral part of the transportation system.” Kevin Hardman, executive director of Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, thought when he saw the budget, “We’ve got to work hard to get the message out.”
The Bicycle Federation was concerned that the legislature would pass the budget without the bicycle and walking program.They sprang into action. They met with Governor Walker during the Wisconsin Bike Summit. He agreed not to veto the budget if the Bicycle Federation managed to get the bicycling money back in. The Bicycle Federation hired a government relations expert and worked with Republican leadership and Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and a broad coalition of transportation interests though the Transportation Development Association to build support to restore $2 million for the program.
To help cover their expenses, the Bicycle Federation applied for and received an Advocacy Advance Rapid Response grant of $3,000. Rapid Response grants are part of the Advocacy Advance partnership between the League and the Alliance for Biking & Walking. They are awarded on a rolling basis for organizations met with unexpected opportunities to win, increase, or preserve funding for biking and walking. “We saw a need and jumped into action," Hardman said. "It takes a lot of resources if we are going to change the minds of political leaders. The League and Alliance quickly came with the resources. This was a very quick and easy way to get resources we needed to support necessary work.”
Reversals like the restoration of funds are not unheard of, but they are unusual. They show what can be accomplished in difficult circumstances. “This is an important moment for Wisconsin bicycling," Hardman said. "These funds have been restored by a conservative Republican legislature and signed into law by a conservative Governor. We will only move bicycling forward in Wisconsin through bipartisan support. This effort proves that we can get both parties to act in support of Wisconsin bicycling.”
Although some of the funds were restored, the initial cut shows the work ahead that is needed to make bicycling seen as mainstream transportation. “Our work on this issue lays the groundwork and helped us build the relationships necessary for future, bigger initiatives,” Hardman said. “If we are going to transform bicycling in Wisconsin and beyond we are going to need to grow an ever larger mainstream community who speak with a unified and decisive voice.”
To learn more about Rapid Response Grants, click here.